Whether you commute regularly or have a vehicle stored away for most of the year, car insurance is one of the most important purchases you will make to protect yourself financially. Although finding affordable coverage can be challenging, shopping around is one of the easiest ways to begin finding the cheapest car insurance rates available to you. Auto insurance quotes vary, so making the effort to get several quotes — we recommend at least three — can result in saving hundreds of dollars each year.
Many insurers make it easy for you to get a quote online by answering a few questions. For others, you may need to pick up the phone to call an insurance agent. No matter how you do it, understanding the quote you get is essential to getting the right coverage.
Car insurance quotes
What are auto insurance quotes? Simply put, they are an estimate of what your monthly premium payment will be if you sign up with the company. Online quotes are a good first step, but speaking with an agent can get you a more accurate quote.
There are many factors that go into your quote, which is personalized to reflect you and your car. Every insurance company has a different method of determining quotes. You can get quotes from two companies for exactly the same coverage, but they may differ by hundreds of dollars.
You should never have to pay to receive a quote — reputable companies offer them for free. Your quote will include your state’s mandatory minimum liability coverage along with any optional coverages you choose, such as collision or comprehensive insurance.
What is a car insurance quote?
When you receive a car insurance quote, you are receiving an estimate of how much your monthly premium will be. Insurance carriers provide these monthly estimates based on the information you provide them, such as your marital status, driving record and vehicle details. Based on these pieces of information – along with the coverages you specify to be included – a price is generated that you can use to either begin comparing against other providers or to finalize the purchase of your policy.
While quotes are generated directly from auto insurance companies, it is important to remember that they are only estimates. Quotes are useful tools in helping determine how much money you will either want or need to set aside for monthly premiums, but they can only be as accurate as the information you submit. For example, drivers looking for cheaper coverage in states with higher premiums on average may be tempted to omit information regarding a previous claim since a negative driving history typically drives rates up. However, quotes are not legally binding and carriers use additional tools to accurately pull drivers’ records following a quote submission.
To help ensure the quoted rate you see is as reflective of your final monthly premium as possible, provide as much accurate, detailed information as you can upfront.
How to get a car insurance quote
There are several ways to get car insurance quotes, none of which should cost you. Quote assessments can be completed online, over-the-phone and in-person for free. No matter which option you choose, you will be asked for the same levels of information. These generally include your personal, vehicle and financial information.
Information you need for a quote
- Driver information: Personal information such as your name, date of birth, occupation and ZIP code are usually requested at the start of quote assessments. You will likely also be asked to provide your plate number, in addition to those of the other drivers in your home. Some states require your credit history as well.
- Vehicle information: Insurance carriers also build quotes based on the details of your vehicle, including its make and model, year, VIN, vehicle type, safety features and mileage. You may also be asked whether you own the vehicle or if it is being leased or financed.
- Driving history: Any prior tickets, accidents or driving violations on your record, typically within the past three to five years, should be reported to an insurance provider for an accurate quote.
- Insurance information: Depending on if you are currently covered, you will likely be asked to provide information on your current insurer and when your policy expires. To help keep your quote accurate, make note of any coverages currently on your policy, including their limits, so you can select them if you want similar protection.
How you decide to get your quote is up to you. If you are shopping around for insurance and want to compare multiple providers, online submissions could allow you to receive several quotes within minutes, as long you have the necessary information. If you have more questions regarding your coverage, you may want to consider scheduling time to speak with an agent in person or over the phone.
The coverage you want
Obviously, the higher the limits of your coverage and the more types of coverage you get, the higher your premium. You’ll pay less if you have your state’s minimum liability coverage than if you have a robust, full policy that includes comprehensive, collision, and other optional coverages such as gap insurance.
Comparing insurance quotes from different companies
What’s the best way to compare quotes from different car insurance companies? Here are the steps you should take to be able to glean the information you need to make a good, educated, choice:
- Request the coverage you need: Determine how much insurance you want, and what types of coverage you need. Not sure? Check out our Car Insurance 101 to get your head around the basics.
- Get similar quotes: When asking for quotes, make sure you’re requesting the same coverage from each company, so that you have an apples-to-apples comparison. If you’re not sure what to ask for because you don’t know the cost, get quotes for several levels of coverage.
- Get several quotes: One good plan is to get quotes from a variety of types of insurers, including traditional agencies, such as Allstate and Geico, which usually have online quote tools on their websites, and local agencies that work in your region and have good feet-on-the-ground knowledge of the issues related to driving in your area.
- Investigate customer service levels: Pay attention to the level of customer support insurance agents give you, and look at online reviews from organizations such as the Better Business Bureau and J.D. Power, which measure customer satisfaction. A great rate won’t do you any good if you can’t get an agent to answer your questions and work with you on claims. You may find it’s worth the money to go with a company that may not give the lowest rates but has excellent customer service.
Incorporating these steps will help you evaluate multiple providers along the same lines of consideration. Below are annual premiums for different well-known providers that rate highly in customer satisfaction. Bankrate has also done in-depth reviews for each of these providers, including their coverage options, to help eliminate an extra step in your search for an auto insurance policy.
Auto insurance quotes by company
|Insurance provider||Full coverage premium||Minimum coverage premium|
What factors impact auto insurance quotes?
Although each insurance company has its own formula for determining your car insurance quote, there are certain factors that all companies will ask for, including the following.
Your driving record
The better your driving record, the lower your rate. The key concept is risk: if an insurer thinks that you’re a high risk for filing a claim, the provider will likely charge you more to cover that risk. A clean driving record, therefore, will result in a lower premium than if you’ve got a stack of parking tickets or moving violations in your name.
|Average full coverage premium||Average minimum coverage premium|
|Clean driving record||$1,674||$563|
Each driving incident has different levels of associated risk and, therefore, different impacts on your overall premium. For instance, not all drivers caught operating vehicles under the influence may experience a resulting accident. However, because DUI accidents statistically cause more damage than standard accidents, DUI convictions will have significantly steeper increases on your insurance premium. In 2018, it was found that fatal accidents were four times more likely for drivers under the influence of alcohol than they were for those with no alcohol in their system.
Your personal characteristics
Insurers take into account your age, gender and marital status. Again, it’s all about risk. Providers know, for example, that teen male drivers cause more accidents than teen female drivers. To account for that, premiums will typically be higher for young men. Women tend to pay slightly less than men, and the rates for young drivers are high, then become lower until about age 60, when they begin to rise again. Married drivers are considered a safer bet than single ones too.
|Average annual premium for males||Average annual premium for females||Difference|
You’ll need to know the VIN number of your car to get a quote, or at least, the make and model number. Some cars are more expensive to repair than others, and so someone driving a Tesla Model S, for example, will pay more than a driver with a Honda Civic. Your car’s age also is important: newer cars tend to be more expensive to insure than older.
Where you live
There are two elements to consider here. First, the state you live in will impact your rates, because insurance is largely regulated on the state level, and each state has its own minimum coverage levels. Second, whether you live in an urban or rural area matters. Statistically, more accidents happen in the city than the country, so your rates will be higher if you’re in a large urban area.
The table below lists average car insurance premiums for full and minimum coverage. Click on your state for some additional assistance narrowing down some of the best car insurance companies in your area.
|State||Full coverage premium||Minimum coverage premium|
|District of Columbia||$1,855||$704|
How to save on auto insurance quotes
The average American driver pays $565 annually for minimum coverage car insurance and $1,674 annually for full coverage. If you are interested in having a rate more personalized to your budget, there are several things you can do to earn a cheaper premium rate. As we mentioned above, things like your age, gender, and marital status play a part in your rate — but there’s not much you can do about any of that. That doesn’t mean you can’t help yourself get the best rate possible, though.
Most insurers offer discounts, and some are easy to get. You’ll find discounts for having multiple policies with the same insurer, good driver discounts, and even discounts for paying your bill electronically.
Telematics is real-time technology that is installed in your car and monitors your skills while you’re driving. Examples of this are Progressive’s Snapshot program and Allstate’s Drivewise. It costs you nothing to participate, and you’ll be rewarded with reduced premiums if the telematic device proves you to be a good driver.
If you can afford to raise your deductible, you can save 15 to 30 percent on your premiums. That’s a significant cut. If you’re not sure that you can take your deductible from, say, $200 to $500, commit to putting away the premium savings in an account so that in the event of an accident, you’d have the necessary amount stashed away to pay the deductible.
Your credit score
You might not think that your credit score has anything to do with your driving, but excellent credit will earn you a lower premium. Insurers reason that if you’re stable and conscientious about your credit, you’ll be the same way in your driving. If you know you’re going to be shopping for car insurance in the near future, pay off as many short-term debts as you can and be sure to make payments on time to increase your credit score.
Frequently asked questions
What insurance companies offer the cheapest rates?
Based on personal factors such as your age or credit history, as well as details pertaining to your driving record, there is no one company that will be the cheapest for every single driver. Shopping around to compare quotes from several providers can help you determine which company is offering the best rate for your circumstance. Our report on the cheapest car insurance companies of 2021 may help you decide who to call.
How do I know what types of coverage I need?
To begin with, you need to have at least the minimum liability coverage for your state unless you live in New Hampshire or Virginia, where there are no car insurance requirements. You may also want collision and comprehensive, to pay for repairs to you own car. Check with your potential insurer about what other types of coverage they offer to see if anything else makes sense for you.
What cars are the cheapest to insure?
Generally, the cheapest cars to insure are SUVs and midsize vehicles. Topping our list of the 20 cheapest cars to insure is the Mazda CX-3 Sport, followed by the Honda CR-V LX and Wrangler Sport S.
Bankrate utilizes Quadrant Information Services to analyze 2021 rates for all ZIP codes and carriers in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. Quoted rates are based on a 40-year-old male and female driver with a clean driving record, good credit and the following full coverage limits:
- $100,000 bodily injury liability per person
- $300,000 bodily injury liability per accident
- $50,000 property damage liability per accident
- $100,000 uninsured motorist bodily injury per person
- $300,000 uninsured motorist bodily injury per accident
- $500 collision deductible
- $500 comprehensive deductible
To determine minimum coverage limits, Bankrate used minimum coverages that meet each state’s requirements. Our base profile drivers own a 2019 Toyota Camry, commute five days a week and drive 12,000 miles annually.
To determine alternate rates, our base profile has been adjusted for the following scenarios:
- Driving history: rates were calculated by evaluating our base profile with the following incidents applied: clean record (base), at-fault accident, single speeding ticket, and single DUI conviction.
- Age: rates were calculated by evaluating our base profile with the ages 18-60 (base: 40 years) applied.
- Gender: the following states do not use gender as a determining factor in calculating premiums: California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, North Carolina, Pennsylvania.
These are sample rates and should only be used for comparative purposes.